A couple of weeks ago, I contacted a colleague of mine who's a producer in Los Angeles. She has some contacts at the Discovery Channel, and my initial idea while talking to her was to ask for help with pitching the TV rights to my book to some TV channels. What ended up happening was that she put me in touch with the executive producer of "Brad Meltzer's Decoded" because she knew they were working on something that might involve Mexican cartels. Before I knew it, I was being flown out of town by The History Channel for a whirlwind trip to be filmed for an upcoming episode!
I arrived on site around 1pm. I honestly had no idea what to expect because I'd never seen a TV show being filmed, although I'd seen several episodes of "Decoded" and knew how the scene would probably go. After a few minutes, the crew arrived and started unloading all the gear. I couldn't believe how much equipment and how many people it takes to film what ends up being a five-minute conversation on TV! While the gear was being brought in, I met Buddy Levy, one of the "Decoders," i.e. my interviewer. I liked him right away; he was very nice, genuine, and originally from New Orleans!
We then moved to the very warm room where the scene would be filmed. It took about an hour to set everything up. During this time, I chatted at length with the producer about the subject of organized crime in Mexico. This helped him form the questions that Buddy and Christine McKinley (she goes by her last name), the other Decoder, would ask me during our conversation on film.
After the scene was set, McKinley came in, and I also really liked her right away! Both she and Buddy were so friendly, laid back, and very easy to talk to. They were also genuinely interested in the subject of the drug war, and just loved learning new things in general - the biggest reason why my husband and I love watching the show so much! The crew then spent the next hour just setting up the shot - getting the lighting right, the camera angles right, switching up where we were sitting, etc. There was a lot of work getting done before they even started rolling any film! And we were all sweating pretty profusely; it was a hot day, and there wasn't much A/C going on in that room.
We finally started to film. McKinley and Buddy came into the room, shook my hand and sat down, and they would start asking me questions about Mexican mobsters. They filmed the same questions multiple times to make sure we talked about all the issues relevant to the subject they were trying to decode - in this case, organized crime. We did this for about an hour, then broke for "lunch" at 4pm. I sat next to Buddy and McKinley and some crew members, which was super cool because we got to know each other a bit better, and talk about different things. I loved being able to ask about their experiences with the show, how they fell into the work, where they were from, etc.
After lunch, we really put our noses to the grindstone. They filmed a few parts many more times, again to make sure we covered the relevant topics. A funny thing: My hair, which started out looking great at 1pm (thanks to my awesome stylist at Beauty Brands in Shiloh), was really starting to frizz out by 5pm in all that heat and humidity (!!!). The director kept coming over to smooth it out to make sure it looked as much like it did in the first few takes, which I imagine was a challenge! It was just funny to see this guy making sure my hair was "just so." They really pay attention to the little details! Finally they got everything they wanted, and we "wrapped" around 7pm.
There were several things I was particularly proud of. First, the producer said he was extremely happy with the interview, and that he got exactly what he wanted. It was my job to do that for him, and I'm glad I was able to do that. Second, he said they normally have to work with their experts to make sure they know what to do, what to expect, and I guess some they've worked with have been more difficult than others. Everyone said they wished all their experts could be like me, and that made me feel amazing! Third, my experience in front of the cameras for the news paid off; he loved what I was wearing (solid bright color), and said I looked great on camera. That made me feel REALLY amazing!
Overall, it was a truly incredible experience. But let me tell you, it was work, and all I was doing was sitting on a stool and talking! The crew was on their feet most of the time - especially the camera guys, who are holding heavy equipment while standing for hours - and it was really hot in that room. Everyone was so nice to me, making sure I had water, a comfortable place to sit, etc. I spoke with pretty much everyone there, and met some really interesting people - including a crew member from Ecuador! It was cool speaking in Spanish with him and learning about his roots there. Talking with Buddy and McKinley is definitely at the top of my "Cool Things I've Done in My Life" list! They're funny, smart, and very interesting people. McKinley and I are already FB friends, so fortunately I'll be keeping in touch with them.
The new season of "Brad Meltzer's Decoded" starts on October 4th on The History Channel. Check it out because it's a really neat show! The episode I'm in will air later in the season, either in December or January. I will be sure to let you all know when it's going to air so you can tune in. As always, thanks for your unending friendship and support in my professional endeavors!
Causes Sylvia Longmire Supports
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
The Wounded Warrior Project